CHINA/HONG KONG New threats against the democratic rights of workers An interview with Cho Ming Lam, labour activist

An interview with Cho Ming Lam, labour activist

What is the situation in Hong Kong?

The COVID – 19 crisis has seen the growth of a significant offensive against workers’ rights and democratic freedoms. As is the case elsewhere in the world, the conditions for lay-offs and firings have become more “flexible”.  At the same time, in addition to the banning of gatherings, surveillance of the population has been exacerbated, thanks to new technologies. Inhabitants are more and more “tracked” for the sake of fighting the virus.

Could you give some examples of this offensive?

4 June is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square repression (in 1989 – editor’s note). For the first time in thirty years, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1) banned gatherings. The Hong Kong Alliance, in support of democratic and patriotic movements in China – which organises the annual candlelight vigil – maintained its call to gather everywhere that it was possible. On 4 June the police put up barricades around Victoria Park, the traditional venue for the gathering. The crowd flooded the barricades and over 10,000 people gathered on the square, and thousands of others gathered in five or six other places. The police then arrested fifteen members of the Alliance for inciting an unauthorised gathering. Today, comrade Lee Cheuk Yan (general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions – editor’s note) is punishable under several criminal procedures for unauthorised gatherings, incitation to such gatherings and even incitation to incitation for an unauthorised gathering.

And what about the draft bill on national security?

The Beijing government wants to get its law on national security adopted very soon. The details are still not known, but the law might be adopted by the end of the week, or in any case, in a month or two (2). This law is particularly serious: any activist could be accused of “subversion” – an accusation whose minimum punishment is ten years in prison. The law also targets “foreign intervention”. I am worried that this law may target international solidarity in the labour movement.

Interview conducted by Guillaume Thenoz

15 June 2020

(1) An “autonomous” government that is linked to the central government of the People’s Republic of China.

(2) Since the time of this interview, the text has gone to discussion in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which met in Beijing from 18 to 20 June (editor’s note).